The Lake Theatre is back showing films and serving popcorn just in time for Thanksgiving. The cinema was temporarily closed Tuesday, Nov. 23 after a fire broke out early that morning next door at Delia’s Kitchen.
“Everything is in good shape,” said Chris Johnson, Classic Cinemas CEO.
The fire caused no structural damage, but the beloved Oak Park movie house did not go unscathed either. Johnson told Wednesday Journal the fire melted some of the circuit boards used in the theater’s heating and cooling system, which have since been replaced. Roofers patched up the theater’s roof, which sustained some fire damage.
“We’re going to have to do a permanent repair, but we were able to seal it up,” Johnson said.
ComEd crews worked into the night to restore power which was lost during the blaze. The sudden resurgence of electricity blew out some of the projection equipment, but repairs were made using spare parts the movie theater had on hand. The theater was fortunate that its projectors weren’t damaged by the water used to put out the fire either.
“The good news is the water was away from the projectors because those projectors, they’re like $100,000,” said Johnson.
Considering the magnitude of the fire, which raged for about two hours before being extinguished by firefighters from Oak Park and several neighboring towns, Johnson is relieved the theater was not in worse shape.
“That fire was crazy. I’m surprised we didn’t have more damage,” he said. “Thankfully though, the fire department was up on the roof, working on top of Lake Theatre and so it really, really, really helped.”
Carpet cleaners were called in to extract water and deodorize. Only a slight stench of smoke lingered in the theater the day after the fire, according to Johnson, who said the smell was dissipating more with every minute spent running the theater’s HVAC units.
Thanksgiving weekend is famously busy for movie theaters, with the release of several films each year coinciding with the holiday. Lake Theatre will not be missing out on the fun this year as the cinema screens movies in a digital format instead of using film reels, which melt and burn easily.
For those looking to follow up their family feasting with a film, Johnson has some recommendations. One of his favorites this year is the Kenneth Branagh-directed “Belfast,” which is playing in limited showtimes.
“‘House of Gucci’ is definitely worth seeing,” he said.
He also thinks audiences will enjoy “King Richard,” a biographical drama following the father of tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams. For a good family movie, he suggests the new “Ghost Busters,” calling it a “sweet story.”